before our honeymoon, quebec city, canada wasn’t even on S’s or my radar. my mom had suggested it as an alternative to a european vacation and upon researching it further, we quickly fell in love -so much so that we booked our trip thereafter. with the amount of googling i had done prior to our arrival, i felt pretty confident that we’d have plenty to do/see. but with the help of our hotel concierge (a highly underutilized resource), we were able to add excursions that turned out being our favorite memories from the trip!
we booked our air travel with air canada -opting for a direct flight from san diego to toronto, with an additional connecting flight to take us right into quebec city. all in all, the travel time was just under seven hours which in our minds was doable. the hours we lost on our arrival into canada (quebec is three hours ahead), we gained back on our return to san diego, so it all evened out in the end.
fairmont chateau frontenac || perhaps the biggest splurge we made planning our trip was booking the fairmont chateau frontenac to be our home for the course of our 11-day stay. the only consolation was that our daily rate was in canadian dollars instead of american ones, haha. in all honesty, you only get to honeymoon once, so it was important to us to be able to stay where we wanted. luxury aside, the chateau frontenac’s location ended up being perfect as it was fairly central to the city’s various neighborhoods as well as the meeting point for our wine tasting tour.
oh and did i mention it’s also the most photographed hotel in the world? it’s even more breathtaking in person (see photo above).
things to do/places of interest:
montmorency falls || a twenty-minute cab right from our hotel, this gorgeous waterfall is a must-see. it is pretty touristy, so i would recommend going early and make sure you’re wearing your walking shoes. while you can certainly take the funicular to the top of the falls, i suggest getting your cardio on and trudging the 400 stairs to reach the summit. there’s a suspension bridge that takes you from one side of the falls to the other (which offers some pretty epic photo ops) but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can opt for the zip line instead (no thank you).
private tour to ile d’orleans || unfortunately i can’t find the details for the exact tour we went on, but i can highlight the stops we made over the three-hour guided tour (minus gilligan’s island) of this quaint island (located just across the river from montmorency falls). overall we visited five places -three wineries, a chocolate shop, and a maple manufacturer. for obvious reasons (and for not as obvious -our tour guide was a delight!), it was our absolute favorite excursion from our trip.
- chocolaterie de i’jle d’orleans (a decadent chocolate shop)
- vignoble isle de bacchus (a winery known for their ice wine)
- ciderie verger bilodeau (a cider house specializing in “ice cider” which is made from frozen apples and delectably sweet. we took a bottle home with us!)
- l’erabliere de l’ile d’orleans (a maple grove and sugar shack producing the sweetest maple confections -the maple butter was to die for!)
- vinaigrerie boutique cass’isle d’orleans (featuring vinegars and other specialty products made from black currants)
la citadelle de quebec || just a few blocks from the chateau frontenac is the la citadelle de quebec, the old city’s original fortress. it is still a working military base so tours must be guided, but admission is a great way to learn more about the history of the city. similar to buckingham palace, there is a changing of the guard ceremony every day at 10:00 a.m. from june 24th-september 4th -featuring batisse, the goat!
musee national des beaux-arts du quebec || given its rich culture and history, quebec city boasts many museums -including the musee de civilisation, which we also visited (but didn’t love). if you only have time for one, i recommend the musee des beaux-arts du quebec, a fine arts museum with gorgeous grounds. i personally enjoyed the phillippe halsman exhibit (who famously photographed marilyn monroe) as well as the rooms featuring modern art. check the website for information on current exhibits.
le jardin jeanne d’arc || on your walk to the musee national des beau-arts du quebec, you can stop by the joan of arc garden to admire the array of gorgeous flowers and indigenous plants. though not as large as a typical botanical garden, this little stretch of agriculture is a photographer’s dream (see my sweet shutterbug above). unfortunately the day we ventured to the gardens and museum may have been the hottest day of our entire trip, so we didn’t stay too long, but the area is flanked with benches, making it the perfect spot to sit and snuggle with a loved one or sip some refreshing iced coffee.
petit champlain || while nearly ever street and neighborhood looks straight out of beauty and the beast (see photo directly below) with their cobblestone streets and flower-box lined windows, i must say my favorite area of the city was definitely the petit champlain quarter. lined with shops and eateries, it’s always abuzz, but if you go early enough (as we did a couple mornings when we had breakfast here), you can have the place to yourself, and take as many crowd-free photos as you wish -especially in front of this mural (second photo below).
and now for the important stuff…
our favorite coffee shops & eateries:
le maison smith || though there are a few starbucks (including one that was attached to our hotel which was convenient in a pinch), we tried really hard to seek out local coffee shops for our daily caffeine fix. a quick google search led us to our first visit to maison smith, which fast became our favorite spot. with multiple locations sprinkled around the city, it’s the perfect place to stop in for a morning coffee and pastry, or afternoon snack. aside from maybe one day, i got an iced almond milk latte, and S, an iced americano, from here every single afternoon.
speaking of almond milk -i was pleasantly surprised by how many coffee shops and restaurants offered milk alternatives. aside from two spots we visited (which offered only soy milk), i was able to substitute almond milk for regular milk or cream. it certainly made my coffee-drinking experience more enjoyable!
baguette & chocolat || another local gem we visited on a whim and ended up going back to on our last morning in the city. fun story: S and i were both wearing our encinitas surfboards hats on our first visit and the owner immediately recognized the city and asked if it was in san diego. turns out he and his family have a friend who lives in la jolla, whom they have visited multiple times over the past few years. what a small world, right?
les cafes du soleil || having never drank one before, i fell in love with almond milk lattes on this trip -in both hot and iced forms. it then became our mission to find the largest lattes in the city -most of which came served in a cereal bowl (as opposed to a coffee mug). you’ll notice the photo directly above is from our morning at les cafes du soleil. no joke, this latte was the size of my head (and i drank every last drop). of the MANY almond milk lattes i consumed, i will say that les cafe du soleil’s version was definitely my favorite. and of the many croissants S consumed, the one he ordered here was definitely his favorite.
l’omelette || we had our very first meal here before a full day of exploring the city. truthfully, it wasn’t anything amazing, but their offering of all the breakfast classics (eggs, toast, breakfast meats, etc.) made it easy for both of us to find fuel. added bonus -they had gluten-free bread.
a note about gluten-free bread -nearly every place we went to -even the burger joints -offered gluten-free bread at no extra charge! similar to the almond milk, i was very pleased by how many restaurants made the conscious effort to accommodate their non-gluten-consuming patrons. well done, quebec city!
cochon dingue || translated to mean “crazy pig,” cochon dingue won me over with their french-inspired marketing (their servers wear blue and white striped shirts with red embroidery), their vast breakfast menu (everything from egg white omelets to whipped cream topped french toast), and the fact that a coffee or latte is included with every meal. after such a pleasant first experience, we came back for a sophomore visit near the end of our trip. fun fact: for easy identification of english-speaking vs. french-speaking customers, the respective menus are color-coordinated so the server knows how to address their table when they approach for initial introductions. i had such a convincing “bonjour,” that we got mistaken for being french many times. little did they know that bonjour was the extent of my french 🙂
cosmos || turns out, the popularity of “sunday brunch” translates across the u.s. border. after nearly exhausting all of our “shawna-friendly” options, we stumbled upon cosmos and decided it was the perfect spot for our sunday morning feast (along with half of the city). with tons of healthy options and an abundance of fresh juices and smoothies, it was the perfect place to start our leisurely morning. no exaggeration, the fruit salad that came with my poached eggs and gluten-free toast might have been some of the freshest and ripest fruit i’ve ever had.
since we usually didn’t have breakfast until 10-10:30 a.m., we never sat down for a proper lunch, but i believe most of the places where we had dinner also serve midday meals -just be sure to check the hours. some restaurants close down in between lunch and dinner service.
bistro le sam || before we arrived in quebec city, the chateau frontenac was kind enough to email us with the offer to reserve a table at either of their in-house eateries. after reviewing the menu options for both restaurants, i spotted a few dishes at bistro le sam that sounded right up my alley. since this was by far our fanciest meal of the trip, it made sense to do it on our first full night there. we got gussied up and shown to a table overlooking the st. lawrence river. S had the grilled flank steak (with french fries!) while i feasted on a vegetarian take on a traditional poke bowl. it was perfect and certainly set the tone for the romantic week ahead.
piazzetta || one of our favorite casual date night locale’s in san diego is blue ribbon pizza, so after a long day of touring the city by foot (i made mention that we walked over 80 miles over the course of the trip), we were craving something hearty. we found piazzetta sort of by accident and were excited to learn that they offered gluten-free and vegan crusts on all of their pies. exhausted, we opted to take our pizzas to go and enjoyed them from the comfort of our king-sized bed while watching the bachelorette (#livingthedream). i ordered the deluxe vegetarian without cheese while S got the chorizo and cheddar cheese curd pizza per the recommendation of our server. we may or may not have come back a second time later in the week!
le veravin || touted as a gluten-friendly restaurant (they even have a small store where you can purchase gluten-free snacks), le veravin is the quintessential neighborhood bistro offering a little something for everyone. with everything from nachos to classic poutine (a canadian mainstay), both S and i easily found food to satisfy our palettes. i opted for the veggie burger (one of MANY i consumed over the course of the trip) with a gluten-free bun while S elected to have the fish and chips. truthfully, we loved this place so much we would have come back here almost every night, but we limited ourselves to just twice.
a note on repeating restaurants -given my dietary restrictions, once we found a restaurant that we knew had menu options i liked, we often ate their multiple times. lucky for me, my husband didn’t mind being repeat customers. one of the many, many reasons i love him!
le monastere des augustines || if there was a prize for husband of the year, S would definitely be in the running after taking me here. i could have cried out of sheer happiness. fun story: the website declared that reservations were “a must!” given that summer is a popular time of year but when we showed up a handful of minutes early for our 6:00 p.m. reservation (side note: we dine very early for american standards and we dine even earlier for canadian standards, whoops), there was not a soul in sight. in fact, we had the place completely to ourselves (we whispered for most of dinner since it felt weird a) talking loudly in an empty dining room and b) it was a monastery after all). keeping in line with the hotel’s overall focus on wellness and total health, the restaurant is a rotating seasonal buffet of various fruit, vegetable, and nut-based dishes. we feasted on things like edamame and strawberry salad, lentil hummus (which i ate by the plateful), and roasted marinated chickpeas. i also ate my weight in these amazing homemade apricot and almond crackers which paired quite well with the hummus. the meal also included after-dinner raspberry sorbet and an herbal tea of our choice. though my true love languages are words of affirmation and quality time, taking me to restaurants that satisfy my hippy palette is definitely a close third.
chez victor || touted as a gourmet burger joint (similar to the counter), S actually had his first poutine experience here. though there is a vast offering of burgers (i had one of the best lentil burgers of my life), chez victor also offers the traditional canadian dish which pairs french fries with meat, gravy, and cheese curds. given the casual vibe, chez victor might be a better lunch locale if you’re accustomed to going fancier for your third meal.
sapristi || sapristi was one of the last meals we had in the city. after a diet of almost exclusively rx bars (a lifesaver for a picky eater traveler), veggie burgers, and almond milk lattes, my body needed some vegetables. i was happy to find a greek salad on the menu, which ended up being just cubed cucumber, tomato, onions, olives, and feta cheese (which i picked out and gave to S) marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette (so sans lettuce), but it definitely satisfied the craving for fresh produce. S opted for a pasta dish (the restaurant boasts a fairly italian-style menu), but we both kind of breezed through our meal in anticipation of our trip to…
erico || first and foremost, erico is actually a chocolate museum with a sweets shop on the side. while we didn’t explore the museum, we did pay them a visit for a scoop of chocolatey confection after our meal at sapristi. research informed us that the shop offers a few non-dairy options including sorbet and a tofu-based dark chocolate creation. i snagged a couple scoops of the latter while S was excited to try a chocolate dipped cone. similar to dairy queen’s version, a sugar cone filled with vanilla soft-serve is hand-dipped into melted chocolate that quickly hardens upon contact. we had every intention of enjoying our treats back at the hotel, but with the heat, they barely survived a few blocks!
le chic shack || much like the infamous shake shack (i’d imagine at least, i’ve never been to a shake shack location), there was a line out the door of this neighborhood joint every time we passed it on the street (it’s literally a stone’s throw from the chateau frontenac). for our final meal before our pre-dawn flight, we braved the evening’s windy weather for an early dinner here. i got a southwestern-style salad (with corn and three bean salad) with a vegetarian patty on top and S got a second helping of poutine. as i do most places we eat, i took inventory of what everyone around us was ordering/eating and i learned that the burgers were served a la carte, so the regular or sweet potato fries had to be ordered separately. similar to chez victor, this would be a great casual lunch spot, just be prepared to wait!
speaking of waiting, my apologies for the tardiness of this post. i can’t believe we’ve already been home for two whole weeks! anyway, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! this was quite the long post, but i wanted to be sure i shared as many of our favorite places as possible to make it easy for anyone considering a trip to quebec city (especially anyone with a gluten or dairy intolerance). hopefully you were able to follow along on our vacation in real time via instagram, but if not, i made sure to include all of my favorite photos which i believe truly capture the charm of this amazing city.